For long term gains in controlling spending and increasing my savings, I look at one area at a time. Working successfully on just one area leads to a snowball effect of change. For example, my son wants to cut back on after school activities to increase his weekly downtime. I am considering the time gain but also what can be saved in spending. So I am looking at what are the most expensive activities, what are physical outlets for him, what activities might be kept with less participation, and what might go away entirely. I have a variety of activities to choose from and will make a decision soon. Next month I’ll consider reducing the costs of eating out.
Chasing the latest hot stock is much like gambling. Investing is a long term activity that should not be emotionally tied like gambling. To help avoid emotion in my investments, I pick well diversified index based mutual funds and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) that invest in thousands of stocks that do not get rocket like gains or ship sinking losses. Tracking these investments is like watching the paint dry. I track my portfolio as just part of my greater financial picture. I am more concerned about how my net worth grows than my portfolio in a silo. Taxes, auto purchases, vacations, housing costs and more can affect my net worth even more than just how my portfolio grows. This approach has lead me to a healthier financial life.
Cybersecurity is a hot topic. It can be almost a full time job to lock down ones electronic devices. There are two key things to do from my perspective. First, lock down the memory or hard drive of the device through encryption. Using Bitlocker on a PC or enabling the memory encryption on an android phone are two examples. Second, is keeping passwords complex. There many ways to generate complex passwords that are 15 or more characters. One of the easiest is to use a password manager like LastPass or Dashlane. LastPass, as an example, has a password generator built in that can automatically fill a spot on a web application with an new password. There are many other items that can be addressed after these first two steps.
Save Money Help the Environment
How can you save money and help the environment? Perhaps there is not one thing but rather lots of small things you can do instead. Here is a short list of things I do to save money and make less impact on the nature. They might stimulate ideas to apply to your life.
1. Reduce air pollution by driving a more fuel efficient, hybrid, or electric car.
2. Take still usable items to a charity rather than put them in the trash and taking the tax deduction.
3. Turning off lights in rooms not occupied and converting to LED bulbs when a light burns out.
4. Use a more water efficient cycle on my dishwasher.
5. Unplugging phone and other chargers when not being used.
6. Trying to use all the food your purchased rather than have it go bad and ending up in the trash.
7. Adjusting thermostat settings to use less heating and cooling when out of the house.
8. Use more water efficient shower heads and faucet aerators.
When I do these types of things, I am not just helping the environment or my wallet. I am doing both and, most importantly, creating a lifestyle that will help both over the long haul.
Keeping it simple.
Recently, I realize I had multiple financial accounts that were serving the same purpose for me. I had no good reason for the separate accounts so I consolidated them.
In my work, I have found others often have similar financial account clutter. It is not unusual in our mobile lifestyle with job changes and cross country moves. In fact one of the most common tasks I have with clients is consolidating accounts into a few focused and useful ones. Having fewer account means fewer statements, less tax forms to track down, few logins and passwords to keep track off to name just some of the financial clutter that comes with having many accounts. Consolidating accounts takes effort and often is not a quick process.
Just like cleaning out the proverbial pile of stuff in the corner of the garage, clearing out financial clutter can be beneficial.
Often, I read about the way to save money is to not buy the daily $4 latte. Sometimes I find myself in the opposite situation–being too frugal. For example, driving across town to save $1. I have come across others from time to time with a similar mindset.
Fortunately I now recognize this self sabotaging behavior. I consider what my time is worth today. In the past, I might have had more time than money in which case driving across town made more sense. In my situation as a Dad with school aged son my time is the more often the limiting factor. I have had to place a literal dollar value on my time. Most of the time it is not worth the 15 minutes across town to save two dollars. This would mean I only value myself at $8/hour. I know I am worth more than that to my son and myself. How much dollar value to place on your time?
Bank Bill Paying Services
Have you tried bill paying services through your bank?
Many banks today offer free bill paying services to the organizations you pick. I have found this to be an extremely useful service for my and my Dad’s bills. I only have to entered a billing organization details one time. In the future, I can quickly send a specified amount and have it delivered on the date of my choice in the future. The banks pay the postage on those automated checks sent by postal mail while others are sent electronically to the billing organization. A huge plus, is that large utilities and cable companies can have their bills automatically sent or linked to bank. When I log in I get a notification of a new bill and the due date. I have auto payments set up for my mortgage and church pledge. I can change these payments on the fly when amounts fluctuate such as for my property tax mortgage escrow.
This highly useful banking service helps me never miss a bill payment in the busy of life.